September 24, 2014 at 7:00 AM
The 2014 Red Sox minor league season went quite a bit better than things over in Boston. Posting a collective .546 minor league winning percentage that saw two affiliates take home championship titles, the organization was flush with impressive performances from its wide-spread base of talent. The awards below represent the SoxProspects community's picks for the best performers in eight different categories.
For the second straight season, Betts took home the honors for the SoxProspects Offensive Player of the Year. While 2013 saw him burst onto the scene as a legitimate prospect (he ended the season at No. 10 on the SoxProspects rankings after not cracking the top 50 at the beginning of the season), it was his 2014 performance that cemented him as a top-notch MLB prospect. The Sox aggressively started the 21-year-old at AA Portland in 2014, where he only went on to slash .355/.443/.551, good for the best OBP and OPS (.994) in the Eastern League. His otherworldly showing led to an early-June promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he maintained his excellence, hitting .335/.417/.503 in 211 plate appearances. With two call-ups to the major league squad sprinkled in between, Betts managed to rank in the top five in the International League in batting average, OBP, and OPS. Also worth mentioning is that Betts never stopped ripping the cover off the ball despite taking on the challenge of learning to play the outfield for the first time in his professional career.
Betts endeared himself so much to fans with his stellar performance that the SoxProspects community also ticketed him as the system's Graduate of the Year who will go on to have the best career. Betts graduated on September 12, and as of September 22 is slashing a healthy .285/.362/.439 with the Red Sox. Particularly notable about Betts' selection is his trumping of Xander Bogaerts - Betts received 22 votes, 9 for Xander - who just earlier this year was the consensus No. 2 prospect in all of MLB, although Bogaerts's long mid-season slump likely influenced the voting. Moving forward, Mookie could be set to helm the leadoff spot for Boston in 2015 while playing the outfield, although he also serves as an extremely valuable trade chip.
While most eyes began the season focused on the likes of Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo, and Trey Ball among the Sox crop of promising young arms, it was Johnson who had the most spectacular season of the organization's crop of pitching talent. After posting solid numbers in five starts for High A Salem, Johnson was promoted to the Double-A Portland rotation, where things seemed to click perfectly for him. Johnson went on to make 20 starts for the Sea Dogs, giving up two earned runs or fewer in all but one appearance. He finished the minor league regular season with an overall record of 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA, 132 strikeouts, 39 walks, and 0.97 WHIP. His ERA, WHIP, batting average-against, and OPS-against led the entire organization (minimum 80 innings pitched).
Although he does not possess great velocity, scouts raved about Johnson's pitch execution, particularly with his curveball. Earning the Breakout Player of the Year Award to complement his Pitcher of the Year honor, Johnson now rests in the No. 6 slot of the SoxProspects rankings, after beginning the season just outside of the Top 10.
After an inconsistent season in 2013 that saw him struggle with injuries, a low batting average, and high strikeout numbers, Coyle worked on some swing adjustments in the offseason that helped lead to a terrific season in his first taste of Double-A. In 384 plate appearances, the 22-year-old swung a thunderous bat to the tune of a .295/.371/.512 line while trimming down his strikeout rate and primarily playing second base, at least following the promotion of Betts. He earned a spot on the Eastern League All-Star team as well as a trip to the Futures Game. Unfortunately, his durability issues continued, as he spent a couple stints on the disabled list due to issues with his hamstring, ankle, and a bruised finger that prevented him from playing 100 games for the second straight season.
It was simply a fantastic rookie season for the 17-year-old who was once Baseball America's No. 3 international prospect, and he ran away with a unanimous victory in our poll. Devers began the year in the DSL, demolishing pitchers with a .337/.445/.538 line in 128 plate appearances. After just over a month, he was promoted to the Gulf Coast League, where he remained highly productive, slashing .312/.374/.484 and finishing third in the league with 36 RBI despite his late arrival. The exciting third baseman is currently on the Fall Instructional League roster, and could make the jump to Low A Greenville to start 2015.
Despite being shipped out west in July to a new organization for the first time in his professional career, Lester's standout season has coasted on without a bump. The 30-year-old ace has continued his mid-2013 revival as a a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, becoming more dominant than ever and posting career bests in ERA (2.41), WHIP (1.100), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.44). Lester will look to cash in on a mega deal this offseason, with no shortage of teams, including the Red Sox, looking to pursue his services.
DSL Player of the Year: Jhonathan Diaz
Diaz excelled on the mound in his first taste of pro ball as a 17-year-old. A 6-foot-0, 160-pound southpaw who signed for $600,000 on July 2 last year, he posted great numbers all around, including a 6-2 record, 1.63 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 54 strikeouts, and 16 walks in 66 1/3 innings pitched over 14 starts. He allowed no runs in over half of his starts, while never conceding more than three, and earned an invite to the Fall Instructional League.
Photo Credit: All by Kelly O'Connor.
Photo Credit: All by Kelly O'Connor.